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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gonzaga-Arizona game will be pushed back again

Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji (22) drives against Gonzaga’s Filip Petrusev and Corey Kispert during the Zags’ 84-80 win at the McKale Center in Dec. 2019.  (Associated Press)

Tommy Lloyd made it clear during his first news conference as Arizona’s head coach that he wasn’t looking forward to the Gonzaga-Arizona contest scheduled for November.

Lloyd doesn’t have to worry about an emotional Spokane homecoming with Monday’s news that the Zags-Wildcats matchup won’t be played next season. The game has been pushed back, possibly until the 2024-25 season, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

It’s the return contest of a home-and-home series that began with Gonzaga’s 84-80 win over the Wildcats at the McKale Center in December 2019. The rematch was scheduled for last December but was delayed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll push it back a few years,” Lloyd said on Jon Rothstein’s College Hoops Today podcast.

“I feel bad for the fans because I know they want that game, but hopefully they understand.

“Basically my wife and coach (Mark) Few’s wife are best friends. Our kids are more like cousins than just friends. I have no problem with playing Gonzaga down the line and I’m sure they’ll have no problem playing us because I think it’s great for West Coast basketball when those two programs are at the top and they’re battling.”

Lloyd spent more than two decades on Few’s staff helping build the program into a national power before being hired by Arizona last month.

The Wildcats are expected to add a two-game series with Tennessee, traveling to Knoxville next season with the Volunteers visiting Tucson the following year.

Gonzaga, meanwhile, has discussed the possibility of playing UCLA next season. The Zags edged the Bruins 93-90 in an overtime thriller last month in Indianapolis at the Final Four.

Bruins coach Mick Cronin said recently that the teams are trying to make room to fit the game, adding, “obviously we think it could be the most watched regular-season game if we had that (game) right away.”

Several contests on GU’s schedule last season were deferred to next season, including a road date against Texas, Texas Tech (in Phoenix) and home games vs. Washington, Tarleton State, Bellarmine and Northern Arizona. The Zags also faced NAU last December, winning 88-58.

Gonzaga joins Oklahoma State, Providence and Louisville at the Empire Classic on Nov. 18-19 at Madison Square Garden. The Zags take on Duke on Nov. 26 in Las Vegas.